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The “honour” of being an executor in a deceased’s estate

You may feel privileged to be asked to be an executor in an estate and assist in the winding up of one’s affairs as they trusted you implicitly to ensure that their final wishes are carried out.

But what does it entail?

In many cases, the executor’s role can be very stressful and especially when it comes to dealing with family disputes and the finances that stem from there. An executor’s role is defined and guided by the Administration of Estates Act and mainly entails collecting all the assets in the estate, paying the liabilities in the estate, and distributing the residue to beneficiaries.

Family feuds over finances, managing beneficiaries’ demands, mystery beneficiaries and family challenging the loved one’s wishes are all too common issues that an executor must contend with.

Acting as an Executor of an estate is an important job, addressing estate matters quickly and timeously with the relative institutions (i.e. the Master of the High Court, SARS, municipality), effectively communicating with beneficiaries regarding decisions of re-investment, redemption of investments and policies and most commonly; addressing issues of liquidity.

So who should you choose?

Generally, we choose our spouse as the trusted person, however they are usually mourning you and not in a stable frame of mind to deal with the administration of your estate and perhaps do not know what is legally required of them.

Whilst you only require one executor to administer an estate, you can nominate more than one executor if need be. You should consider naming at least a knowledgeable person, who is financially stable, and has legal and financial knowledge of what the executor role will require of them.

The best combination…

An attorney and/or financial advisor would be ideal to assist with the administration of an estate as the estate could involve a business, investments or offshore assets which can make an estate more complex.

The important factor to remember is to choose someone who can work with a professional to oversee the process and ensure your wishes are carried out for you.

Contributor: Thato Mokone, Senior Associate, Fiduciary Division

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